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"The Bot's in the Box. Now, may I sleep?"


We all wish we had more time with our robots before they go into the crate. You have successfully met the challenge of your first year robot being crated and shipped. Savor and enjoy the moment!

The following is reprinted with permission from a post on Chief Delphi. In our opinion, it really represents what has happened in the past six weeks and what is about to happen over the next six weeks. Thanks to Gary Dillard of Team 180 (SPAM) for the words that he shared in 2005. Enjoy.

Dear Rookies - It only gets better....

I wanted to send out a note to all the rookie teams who are asking themselves today...... what just happened?

If you packed and shipped a fully functional robot that does everything you originally planned for it to do - you did better than 99.9% of all the teams in this competition.

For the rest of you.......

We are very proud of you. Your robot may not be able to move, or maybe that's about all it does, but you followed the rules, you gave it your best, you learned alot of stuff along the way. Some of you had no engineering mentors, some had no machine shop support, some had little or no financial support, some had to fight school board policy to compete, some of you had no-one with software experience. Alot of things went wrong in the past 6 weeks, but you are about to find out (if you haven't already) how cool it is to be part of the FIRST family.

This year is a 3 on 3 competition; as in the past we will be paired with some great teams, some average teams and some BLT's (brave little toasters, as we call them) through qualifying. We will carry some teams; some teams will carry us. We will try our hardest to win every match, and we have a strategy for every type of robot. If your robot won't move, your job is to not move. If our robot stops moving, your job may be to push us back. There's alot of luck involved. Sometimes you'll do more than asked, sometimes less. All I can say is, we want you on the field with us. We want to see the excitement in your eyes when your plywood shoebox keeps the other alliance's powdercoat painted, precision machined, fully automatic mega-arm from scoring a tetra.

Please don't act embarrassed if your designs didn't work out; join the club. You are learning and will get better every year. When you get to the competition we will have a small lathe and mill in our pit if you need a part made; we have software guys just itching to help you debug your code; we've got extra bolts and nuts and whatevers for you to use; and we'll probably have to stand in line behind all the other veteran teams who are already helping you.

We are not better than you; we may have more resources than you, or more experience than you, but we expect to learn something from you and we hope you will learn something from us. We plan to have a blast at the competition, and we might even win it with you while we're at it.

We want you here, and we want you back. Welcome.


Up until now, most of your accomplishments and interactions have been internal to your team. From now on out, the internal decreases and the focus becomces the external interactions with FIRST and other teams. Your group of scrappy, sleepless roboteers will now have a group identity - your team number. Treasure your team number. Should your organization get totally hooked on FIRST and, hopefully, sustain a long-term program, your team number will remain constant and will be a large part of who you are as a team. Use your team number wherever possible as you advertise your team (in addition to your team name and other facets unique to your team).


Even though your crated robot was picked up at the loading dock, you will want to ensure that the shipment made it to it’s final destination (the drayage location for your regional). Use the shipper tracking numbers to track the shipment until you are confident that the crate has been received at the proper location. There is nothing worse than your team showing up to a regional event, when your robot does not.



Understand what the rules are regarding what you can work on after the robot ship and when you can work. Consult the FIRST competition manual for details.


While very difficult to do, some teams construct a second robot, similar to the one you just shipped, in order to (1) train drivers, (2) try out some design changes, and (3) hone autonomous programs.  This is legal in FIRST.  However, you must not use any parts / code developed after the Fix-It Window.

For most first-year teams, this is probably not in your plans.  However, it is something to consider for future seasons.


Many teams, to describe their robot, put together a one- or two-page sheet, which is distributed to other teams at the competition.  Not only can this sheet explain the capabilities of your robot, it can start to cement name/team number recognition with other teams.

Anywhere from 35-60 teams will be competing in a given regional.  To help share the capabilities of their team's robot, many teams develop a one page Spec Sheet, which includes a photo of their robot and important information about the capabilities of the robot and the team.  These are helpful to get your team's name, number, and robot details to others.  Prior to the competitions, you may have carefully guarded against the leakage of key information about your robot to help increase your competitive advantage.  However, once at the actual competition, you WANT other teams to know what your robot can do, especially if you are a rookie team.  They not only are going to be your competitors, they also will at times be your alliance partners.  Make it easy for them to figure out how best to interface their robot’s capabilities with your.  Also remember that there is nothing like some good marketing to get others to recognize both your team and your robot.

Robot Specification sheets for our robots can be viewed for each robot on our MOE Robot History page



Before your initial competition of the season, be sure to have each of your team members complete the official FIRST Release form. Detailed information can be found at the FIRST website.  You must hand in these forms as you check in at your regional.  If you do not have these forms, you will not be able to practice or compete with your robot.  We forgot our forms when we arrived at the Chesapeake Regional in 2003 and had to call to have them faxed to the event so we could compete.  Learn from our mistake -–remember your completed sheets!


Pit supplies should consist of all the tools used to build the robot and the material to recreate components that you anticipate might sustain damage during the competition.  In reality, bringing an entire machine shop is not practical.  

 So at a minimum, at least one hand tool of every type used to build your robot should be packed.  Keep in mind that hand cutting tools are an essential (drill, electric saws, hacksaws, etc.  In addition, spare motors, gears, chains, cylinders, valves and electrical components (fuses, motor controllers, joy sticks) for your robot are a must to have.


Have the students on the pit crew, who are responsible for pneumatics, controls, electrical, drive, and unique component mechanisms review the inspection sheet.  Have mentors be mock judges and do a pre-run through of the inspection sheet.  This should occur after shipping and before the first competition.

*DOWNLOAD* 2009 FIRST Inspection Checklist


If you haven’t kept a list of all the materials used on the robot as you built it, now is the time to prepare it.  If you wait until after it ships, you will not have the physical robot to refer to when ensuring that you have everything captured on the list.  Having this list is a requirement for getting the robot certified as acceptable for competition at each event.


The FIRST website will have current information available on each competition venue.  Read this information, and start thinking about the logistics of getting your team to the event and then to and from the event venue and where you will be lodging.  If you are lucky enough to have a competition in your own back yard, begin working on carpools.


Another way your team can distinguish yourself is via a team banner.  These banners can be displayed in certain areas of the competition venue.  Banners can contain your team name, team number, robot name, special cheer, and a list of your key sponsors.  This is a great way to thank your sponsor(s) for the assistance that made this whole experience possible.

Tip -> Make sure that you can hang a banner in the arena. You don't want to make a banner that is too big, or illegal to hang.


 An exciting mascot can add a lot to your team spirit.  There are often opportunities for the mascots from various teams to get out on the field during a break in the action to interact and dance to rev up the crowd.

 Give one of your really outgoing team members a great costume or a puppet to represent your team.  Maybe your school already has a mascot costume you can use.  

 Keep in mind that the mascot costume must be very portable and not too hot.  Many of the venues get real warm and you don’t want your mascot keeling over from the heat!


 Competing as a TEAM in FIRST Robotics competitions is FUN as well as rewarding.  Team spirit establishes a team’s identity in many different ways.  The FIRST organization encourages and, in fact, flourishes on teams who make Team Spirit part of their culture.  

Start with selecting a team name or acronym, one that characterizes your teams mission or school, sponsor, regional roots, attitude, purpose … any number of sources can establish your teams theme.  Stylize with logos and team colors that can be printed onto T-shirts, buttons, hats, costumes or uniforms … You are limited only by your creative imaginations.  

Sounding like fun yet?

 Then there can be team cheers, dances, songs, cheerleaders, banners, posters … anything to make your team more fun and recognizable.

 At competitions it gets even better and more fun.  FIRST competitions are sporting events.  All teams are there not only to seriously compete, but also they recognize that the competition itself is FUN.

 A lot of work went into the design and building of the robot and preparation for the events.  Celebrate your success!  Win or lose, it IS how you play the game!  Show your pride and your colors, be visible and be heard.  Let all of the other teams know that YOU are there.  It makes the events much more memorable and rewarding.


Nothing reminds you more that this is a high school program more than travelling with a team of high school students.  For Adults: If you have not yet traveled with high school students, you are in for a treat.  If you have, we are glad you are still with your team. ; )

Kidding aside, it is important that you are prepared for your team to travel so you can spend more of your time cheering for your team and competing.


If you do not already have a list, it is strongly suggested that you compile your expectations for team member behavior at the competitions.  It may also be helpful to have a clear understanding of what the repercussions are for team members who do not abide by the rules.  Communicate this to the team prior to traveling to the competition and ensure they understand it.


Some venues this season will have lunch menus for pre-ordering lunch for your team.  Take advantage of this if you can.  Practice and competition days are long.  Sometimes, your pit crew has little time to eat lunch.  Consider this as you make your plans.

Check out the Regional information for your event to see if pre-order lunches are available.  


Ensure that each team member has an assigned role prior to the competition and that each person understands what the responsibilities associated with that role are.  Once you are at the competition, it may be difficult to assign roles.  Think outside the box.  In addition to competition team and pit crew, assign team members duties like team spirit, scouts (more later), and even judges for awards your team may give out to others.


The FIRST NEMO (Non-Engineering Mentor Organization) has compiled great advice for mentors travelling with high school students.

*DOWNLOAD* NEMO Tips For Travel


Ensure that each team member has an assigned role prior to the competition and that each person understands what the responsibilities associated with that role are.  Once you are at the competition, it may be difficult to assign roles.  Think outside the box.  In addition to competition team and pit crew, assign team members duties like team spirit, scouts (more later), and even judges for awards your team may give out to others.


This topic, while part of Competition Preparation, is so important, we split it out separately.  

In this MOEmentum addition, we will discuss the overall flow of scouting and discuss pre-competition scouting in particular.  Next week’s edition will describe scouting at a competition.

An overview of what scouting may look like is contained in this SCOUTING OVERVIEW.

*DOWNLOAD* Scouting Overview

  1. Who to scout?
  2. Web Scouting of Teams
  3. Develop Scouting Form For Competitions
  4. Scouting at Competitions


While it may be fun to scout all the teams involved in the FIRST Robotics Competition, it is unnecessary.  Over 1000 teams are competing this season.  This task is huge.

Focus on the teams attending the Regional event you will attend.  This should result in anywhere from 30 to 60 teams.  Go to the regional event listing, which lists every team participating in the regional.  These are the teams to scout.


Check out team websites for photos of their robot and, perhaps, descriptions of the robot functions.  Try your best to determine what strategies the team will employ based on the perceived capabilities of the robot.  

Realize that you are limited in what you can determine by web scouting.  However, it will give you a leg up when you actually get to the competition.

Also consider looking at archived matches of scrimmages or videos of the robot in action.

Some teams have scouting databases set up to assist you in this endeavor.  One good example is the Blue Alliance site.


Knowing your robot capabilities, begin to assemble information you will want to know about other teams, both as alliance partners and opponents.  Determine ways of capturing this information in the pit area of the competitions and also during the practice and qualification matches.

Keep in mind that scouting actual matches is hard work.  Try to keep your scouting sheet simple and easy to use.



Even if you have not attended a local scrimmage, learnings are available through teams attending.  Check out Chief Delphi and other FIRST sites to get others’ perspectives about the game.



Just because your robot is shipped does not stop important FIRST information from being communicated. Continue to check FIRST Team Updates, the Q&A, and Chief Delphi.

COMING NEXT WEEK – The Joys of Scouting, Part II